SC: Davao City ban on aerial spray unconstitutional

Jee Y. Geronimo
SC: Davao City ban on aerial spray unconstitutional
It affirms a Court of Appeals decision which declared as void and unconstitutional for being unreasonable and oppressive Section 5 of the ordinance passed in 2007 when Rodrigo Duterte was mayor

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed on Tuesday, August 16, a 2009 Court of Appeals (CA) decision declaring as unconstitutional an ordinance in Davao City which banned aerial spraying as an agricultural practice.

With Tuesday’s decision, the High Court permanently enjoined Davao City from enforcing and implementing Ordinance No. 0309-07 or “An Ordinance Banning Aerial Spraying as an Agricultural Practice in All Agricultural Activities by All Agricultural Entities in Davao City.” 

The ordinance was challenged by Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Incorporated (PBGEA) after it took effect on March 23, 2007 – more than a month after it was approved by then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

A regional trial court granted the prayer for a preliminary injunction, but later on declared the ordinance as valid and constitutional.

Petitioners Davao City, and Wilfredo Mosqueda et al, who intervened and argued in favor of the ordinance, appealed to the CA and sought injunctive relief. The CA issued a temporary restraining order.

But the CA thereafter reversed the earlier RTC decision and declared Section 5 of the ordinance as void and unconstitutional for being unreasonable and oppressive.

Section 5 bans aerial spraying in the territorial jurisdiction of Davao City 3 months after the effectivity of the ordinance.

Petitioners then brought the issue to the SC, but the High Court unanimously denied the consolidated petitions on certiorari for lack of merit.

On Tuesday, the SC made 3 points on the question of “whether a prohibition against aerial spraying is a lawfully permissible method that the city government can adopt to prevent the effects of the so-called aerial drift”:

1. The ordinance violates the due process clause – The High Court said Davao City “must not act arbitrarily, whimsically or despotically regardless of the ordinance’s salutary purpose.”

On Section 5, the SC said 3 months would be inadequate time for the city to shift from aerial to truck-mounted boom spraying, effectively depriving the city an efficient means to combat disease.

But the High Court disagreed with PBGEA that the buffer zone required by the ordinance is in violation of due process since the purpose is to minimize the effects of aerial spraying.

2. The ordinance violates the equal protection clause – The SC said equal protection was violated since the ordinance made no substantial distinctions when it prohibited aerial spraying per se regardless of the substance or the level of concentration of the chemicals to be applied, and when it imposed the 30-meter buffer zone in all agricultural lands in Davao City regardless of the size of landholdings.

3. The ordinance is an ultra vires act – According to the SC, the city disregarded regulations implemented by the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA), including its identification and classification of safe pesticides and other agricultural chemicals.

Regulation and control of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, the SC said, is a function lodged with the FPA and not with local government units.

Thus, when Davao City enacted the ordinance “without inherent and explicit authority to do so” the SC said the local government performed an ultra vires act. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.